Today I feel like crud. I won't go into the gory details of my illness, because it isn't actually an illness. If you suffer from migraines you'll understand. If you don't, I'll spare you my sob story.
I sent my kids and hubby off to church in the pouring rain and spent a half hour in absolute silence and darkness. It's a mark of author craziness that I am now woozily beginning to think about working on my manuscript.
Which brings me to writing secret #3 - consistency. Strangely enough, a lot of unpublished authors I talk to don't like this word. To them, it implies rigid structure and rigid structure somehow implies an inability to follow the muse. Being authors we've got to be able to write when that illusive muse strikes and wait in comfort and ease and angst when it flits away again. Right?
Wrong. Writing isn't about muse as much is it about consistent hard work. Because, like any other job, writing is work. If we don't embrace that before we're published, we're not going to last very long after we're published. Furthermore, we can't improve as writers if we aren't consistently practicing our craft.
To take this outside the writer's world, I'll use my eleven-year-old as an example. Jude has been playing piano for five years, and he is truly gifted. He loves and plays all kinds of classical music, plays at church, and competes at the local and state level. Jude's problem is that it's always been easy for him to learn music and play it well. This past year, he discovered that procrastinating (as he's done in previous years) isn't working as well. Sure he's gifted, but so are hundreds of other kids. Some of those kids know the importance of consistent hard work. Some, like my son, prefer to play at practicing. The music still sounds great to the untrained ear, but a judge can quickly tell the difference between those that have learned through consistent hard work, and those who are coasting by on their talent. Eventually, those that are working hard will far outshine those who are simply working when they feel passion and excitement over a particular piece of music. At some point, my son will have to choose - does he want to play at being a pianist or does he want to be one?
As writers we have to choose, too. Do we want careers, or do we want to follow the muse? If we want to follow the muse, then we can afford to spend six years writing a book. If we want careers, we need to build the habit of writing into our lives now. Even when our kids are young. Even when we're so tired we just want to veg in front of the television. Even when we really don't think we have the time. Consistency in writing creates authors who are prepared for the demands of publication, who have created habits that will allow them to fulfill contracts and (even more importantly) know how many contracts they will be able to fulfill. Consistency in writing is not a choice for those of us who truly want to succeed. It is a necessity.
If you're struggling with this issue, believe me when I say I understand. Balancing life and writing is a challenge we all must face. However, God does not give us gifts without gifting us with the ability to use them. Take time this week to find time. Look at your day. When does writing best fit in? If you can't pick consistent times (I know I can't) then choose a daily writing goal and stick to it. Muse or no muse. It's the only way to prepare for the day when you must not only produce wonderful stories, but produce them on your publisher's timeline.